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How Iveco SA's market profile and prospects have improved as it has adopted an increasingly sustainable – and increasingly African – business model
Overall, southern African market performance has been good in recent years and outstanding for Iveco, in particular. The National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (NAAMSA) indicates that sales of new light commercial vehicles, bakkies and minibuses – at 13,729 units – have increased by 2.3 per cent during the year to June 2013.
Sales of vehicles in the medium and heavy truck segments of the industry – at 1,040 units and 1,736 units, respectively – increased by 20.5 per cent in the case of medium commercial vehicles, and 3.8 per cent with respect to heavy trucks and buses, between June 2012 and June 2013.
Iveco's southern Africa MD Bob Lowden takes a good 360 degree view of the markets he operates in, and the commerce he is responsible for. An engineer by trade, but one with a Business and Economics degree – and experience of Iveco's operations that stretches back to his first post at the company in 1990 – Lowden commands responsibility for Iveco's business in 19 African countries.
Lowden spoke to African Review about Iveco's market profile and performance in sub-Saharan Africa, and the strategic initiatives underway to continue recent market growth. Furthermore, Lowden conveyed a sophisticated appraisal of Iveco's sales prospects in relation to the volumes of freight traffic across southern Africa.
For nearly 20 years, from its establishment in 1993, Iveco South Africa maintained a fair market share within the territories of the southern African Customs Union (SACU) – with good outreach from its Johannesburg base to export operations in countries including Angola, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
For nearly two decades sales were steady and respectable. What Iveco recognised, and the reason Lowden was installed in Johannesburg early in 2012, was that sales could yet be truly dynamic, with truly dynamic leadership.
Iveco's products are acknowledged throughout the globe for their quality and adaptability, and Iveco's leadership understood that a little extra drive and direction would deliver the rewards, in terms of greater numbers of units sold in southern Africa, that the company's investment in its products merited.
Iveco designs, manufactures, and sells a comprehensive range of medium heavy and extra heavy commercial vehicles to suit a wide range of public and private sector applications. Principally, the company offers the Daily van and chassis cab, on-road and off-road variants of the EuroCargo medium-heavy truck, the on-road extra-heavy Stralis and off-road extra-heavy Trakker. Additionally, the Daily and Power Daily minibuses cater to the passenger transport market.
Determined leadership for dynamic transformation
Lowden knows the he has the products to deliver real results for southern African businesses and he has been reaching out to markets across the continent with innovative approaches. This is more than a matter of having superior products, the right combination of quality and pricing, and the determination to succeed.
You have to speak to customers in the language they understand – the lexicon of business; you need to address concerns not only with respect to product performance, but with regard to purchase and delivery options, vehicle or fleet financing, and after-sales service. South Africa customers, in particular, are demanding, and a failure to deliver to a high standard can lead to a high rate of failure. Complacency kills business.
Among Lowden's prime concerns is that his customers are served well and that the market knows how they are served. His strongest suit is the 30-strong dealer network in South Africa itself, with a further 13 dealers outside this country – and the product segment with greatest returns is the extra heavy truck market, for which Iveco offers both the Stralis and Trakker variants. Expansion is, however, on the cards.
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